Putin's Russia: Life in a Failing Democracy
Author: Anna Politkovskaya
A searing portrait of a country in disarray and of the man at its helm, from “the bravest of Russian journalists” (The New York Times)
Hailed as “a lone voice crying out in a moral wilderness” (New Statesman), Anna Politkovskaya made her name with her fearless reporting on the war in Chechnya. Now she turns her steely gaze on the multiple threats to Russian stability, among them Vladimir Putin himself.
Rich with characters and poignant accounts, Putin’s Russia depicts a far-reaching state of decay. Politkovskaya describes an army in which soldiers die from malnutrition, parents must pay bribes to recover their dead sons’ bodies, and conscripts are even hired out as slaves. She exposes rampant corruption in business, government, and the judiciary, where everything from store permits to bus routes to court appointments is for sale. And she offers a scathing condemnation of the ongoing war in Chechnya, where kidnappings, extra-judicial killings, rape, and torture are begetting terrorism rather than fighting it. Finally, Politkovskaya denounces both Putin, for stifling civil liberties as he pushes the country back to a Soviet-style dictatorship, and the West, for its unqualified embrace of the Russian leader.
Sounding an urgent alarm, Putin’s Russia is a gripping portrayal of a country in crisis and the testament of a great and intrepid reporter.
At a time when many Westerners are ambivalent about Russian President Vladimir Putin, famed war correspondent Politkovskaya (A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya) argues that there is little to admire about the man or the country he has remade in his image. By recounting stories of the winners and losers in today's Russia, Politkovskaya portrays the country as a place where decency is punished, corruption rules and murder is simply a means of getting to and staying at the top. "Putin may be God and Czar in Chechnya, punishing and pardoning, but he is afraid of touching... Mafiosi," Politkovskaya writes. She's an attentive and compassionate storyteller, and the stories she tells are worth reading. The same cannot be said of her simplistic analysis. Politkovskaya's claims that Russia is more corrupt than ever before and that it's reverting to Stalinism, for example, may strike readers as provocative exaggerations. As someone frustrated with the Putin regime and furious about the war in Chechnya, which she argues is an omen of the state's future inhumane treatment of all its citizens, Politkovskaya is passionate and sometimes convincing. But she never adequately explains why, if life under Putin is so awful, 70% of Russian voters chose him for their president in 2004. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The savagery of Russia's actions in Chechnya is not news, nor is the highhandedness of its intelligence services, nor the cynical way Russian politicians and businesspeople mix money and politics. But Politkovskaya, one of Russia's most stridently indignant journalistic voices, has a way of driving the point home with passion drawn from concrete, personal stories. She takes the reader from a distant observation point into the barracks or the courtroom or the street where the deed goes down and then through the tortuous labyrinth where it is consummated, blessed, or concealed. Most of the book is about, as she says, life in Putin's Russia, not Putin's role. Still, she asks, "Why do I so dislike Putin?" and answers, because of his Chekist mentality, his "matter-of-factness worse than a felony, his cynicism," his small-minded pursuit of power and, most of all, because, by guile or indifference, he presides over a Russia slinking back toward its Soviet past.
Up front Politkovskaya (special correspondent, Novaya Gazeta) confesses to having limited qualifications to write this book (she is not a political analyst), but she explains she has written it because she's damned fed up with Putin's regime. "We cannot just sit back and watch a political winter close in on Russia for several more decades," she proclaims. "We want to go on living in freedom." In a series of personal and heart-wrenching stories, she uses her experiences (she has been honored by Amnesty International and the Index on Censorship and is the winner of the Golden Pen Award for her coverage of the war in Chechnya) to highlight examples of treacherous treatment under Putin's command. His government, she maintains, has made a mockery of the courts. Judges and prosecutors are subject to "telephone justice," i.e., a telephone call from a government official dictates the outcome of most trials. She asserts that the military is a tool of the government and that the massacres at the Moscow theater hostage crisis and at Beslan were Putin's tactics to show that Russia's Chechen debacle is in fact a war on international terror. Her main point, ultimately, is that in Russia, all outrages stem from Putin's retreat from democracy. Because of the rather limited scope and lack of corroborative sourcing, this is a good purchase for public libraries only. [The book has not been published in Russia.-Ed.]-Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A resounding indictment of the Russian leader into whose soul George Bush recently peered and pronounced himself satisfied. That was the wrong conclusion to draw, to trust Novaya gazeta correspondent Politkovskaya's furious attack on the person and government of Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the West, she writes, have found it useful to pretend that Putin merits their respect, and with their crowning him an equal "Putin's reign reached its high point, and almost nobody noticed." The former KGB general made it clear that enemies of his regime needed to take notice, however; by Politkovskaya's account, his years of rule have been marked by a return of Stalinist measures ranging from the imprisonment of political enemies in psychiatric hospitals to the show-trial persecution of men and women above suspicion-all very familiar to older Russians who grew up under Sovietism. "Nobody has any hard facts," she writes, "but everybody is frightened, just as people used to be." But there's a big difference: whereas the pride of the USSR was its military, today's Russian armed forces are staffed by brutal officers who rob their subordinates and sometimes kill them for pleasure, or, at the opposite extreme, by dedicated, brilliant officers who go unpaid and near-starving, maintaining their men and equipment through the charity of their neighbors. Who profits by undermining Russia's security? The same mafiosi and oligarchs and developers to whom Putin has handed over control of the economy, Politkovskaya thunders, thereby satisfying one of the three preconditions for getting ahead in today's Russia: "First, you have to initially get a slice of the state pie-that is, a state asset as your privateproperty."Looting the public coffers? Influence-peddling? Corruption? Putin's government sounds positively Western, though the author suggests that it's the same old oriental despotism-and urges that her readers, Russian and otherwise, not allow "political winter" to descend again.
Table of Contents:Foreword ix
Author's Note xiii
My Country's Army and lts Mothers 1
Our New Middle Ages, or War Criminals of All the Russias 25
Tanya, Misha, Lena, and Rinat: Where Are They Now? 81
How to Misappropriate Property with the Connivance of the Government 114
More Stories from the Provinces 159
Nord-Ost: The Latest Tale of Destruction 186
Akaky Akakievich Putin II 230
States and Markets: A Primer in Political Economy
Author: Adam Przeworski
The purpose of this text is to introduce concepts for studying relationships between states and markets. The economy and the state are thus analyzed as networks of relationships between principals and agents, each occupying a particular position in the institutional structure. The book then analyzes systematically the effect of the organization of the state on the functioning of the economy. It isolates the conditions that trigger government's positive or negative responses to the economy.